Artemis - Weekender
Looking through the 2008 P&O itineraries, I'd spotted Artemis was doing a two night cruise from the 10th to 12th May 2008 as well as the usual four.  After hearing and reading so many things about her, mainly bad I have to admit, there was no way I would give them my money for four nights if she was as bad as they reckoned so two would be an ideal length to find out for myself.  I suggested it to Pam who really wasn't that bothered any more that I was but it would be good for research then we can say we'd never go on her again.  The balcony grades are confusing and the lower you go it appears the less space you have so we went for Stateroom with Balcony A331 which cost a little more.  Would it be worth the extra?  I was a little worried as originally I would have returned five days before the maiden voyage of Independence of the Seas, only when that was brought forward this was now four days later.  I never said I was sane.  Now all I needed was Ventura to say I have set foot on all current P&O ships while Pam needs Aurora as well as Ventura.  One of the more unflattering nicknames for Artemis is the tub for her bad handling of bad weather.  Would we have a bit of rocking or be flat calm?  I still think, even three years on, she looked better as Royal Princess (I) as she suited the Princess livery and the buff funnel is awful.  She sailed for refit on the 21st November, returning on the 4th December and
underwent a few changes and improvements including the bathrooms and some public rooms as well as Egyptian cotton bed linen.  Surprisingly she retained the P&O lettering rather than adopting the new P&O Cruise logo on the side as
Oriana, Oceana and Ventura have.

The 10th May was a busy one in Southampton with four ships in.  
Artemis wasn't the smallest after all.  That title went to Braemar, who had finished her final cruise before heading to Hamburg the next day to be lengthened.  She started in 101 and was moved to 102 so they could unload her.  Artemis was in 105, sharing the Mayflower with Oriana in 106.  We were bow to bow so which would go first?  Sea Princess was in QEII.  As neither of us had gone from the same terminal as another ship before this would be interesting as we couldn't wait to find out how they'd do it and if our luggage would end up on Oriana.  When Oceana was in our position, Oriana went first so that was a distinct possiblity.  Major blasting between us either way which would be a lot of fun.  It was a miserable morning when I went over on the Hythe ferry to meet Pam at Town Quay.
After a few photos at Town Quay where it was decidedly muggy, we went to Mayflower Park for more.  Braemar looked like she was wearing a cape around her funnel and there were crates on her deck. Later as we headed to the terminal, we passed a turn off to Leisure World which gave a cracking view so did a U-turn to go back.  Unfortunately there was a high fence with green netting on the other side and barbed wire along the top but I climbed onto the concrete, held the camera over the wire and pointed.  Took many wasted shots as I had no idea what I was aiming at or if it was straight but that's the beauty of digital.  I then tried with Pam's camera before we stood on a couple of rocks then drove around to find a good spot.
Being the polite ladies we are, we asked the woman on the security gate if we could drive down to get photos of Braemar.  She told us no and no photos were allowed to be taken in the port whatsoever but we can take as many as we liked once we were on the ship.  Never come across that before except in America.  I've taken many photos of the ships in dock from outside and inside the terminal for visits and cruises and no one's ever stopped me.  Pam's never been stopped either.  Flipping jobsworth.  Just look at the following photos to see how it's not a problem.  We hadn't expected to be allowed down to 102 anyway but as we were Artemis passengers thought we'd ask rather than just go and be yelled at.  If we really wanted to blow the place up would be spend money on a cruise to do a recce?
We walked to the terminal from the car park in front of the old Bacardi/Martini bottling plant.  It's still sad seeing it closed after all these years.  As they had sent labels it meant you could check in your luggage.  To make sure they went to the correct ship, we had a green label with 105 wrapped around the handle and it went through a different way.  Inside it was divided with Artemis check-in on the left, Oriana the right.  We went through the usual security scanners and, after being given a letter (E), had to wait in departures.  I don't know where Oriana's went.  We weren't waiting there too long as they zipped through the letters fairly quickly.  We already saw one hen party.  Artemis isn't exactly first choice for hen parties and we couldn't help wonder if it was because they'd done the ship before or the dates were convenient.  We boarded via the dock, giving us more photo opportunties.  I also spotted a couple of remnants from her Royal Princess days.
Once boarded, we went to see if our cabin was ready even though it said 1pm.  It was so we dumped our stuff then looked for our steward Asis to let him know.  We had our priorities, even though we were hungry.  We had to get shots of Oriana ahead and Braemar behind THEN we could eat.  As we made our way forward we saw some crew working on the ship.  Broken down already?
Phew it didn't half whiff of paint!  One solitary crew member was doing everything.  Thank goodness for him it wasn't raining.
So far the deck space met with my approval.  I love plenty and she had it in spades.  I just wish they'd ditch the green astroturf.  Makes her look mouldy or covered in algae.  It's worse then the blue on Oceana.  But forward especially, if you ignore the snot explosion, there are many areas to stand for sailaway or watch the world go by.  It also gave us many excellent angles of Oriana.  We certainly had the better view with her being larger and us having more decks to see her from.
We made our way towards The Observatory for lunch, detouring through the Horizon Lounge above it.  This ships has an odd layout compared to a lot of others.  This marvellous observation lounge overlooks the stern rather than bow and has doors leading to the outside and inside.  You need to be wary of all external doors though as they can have a high step, especially when you go inside from the stern to one of the accommodation decks so stay sober or you could break your neck.
Pam noted the curry was boneless chicken and meant to get a picture of it as the one on Oriana had been more bone than meat.  The Observatory had seating on the stern which would be nice on a good day.  Afterwards we went out for photos of Braemar and it drizzled a little.  We went for a drink at the Pool Bar and as we sat there, the funnel went bang and spurted out plumes of black smoke making everyone look up.  Unfortunately I was a little slow with the camera.  Service was good but stock was bad.  Pam asked for a wine which they'd run out of.  It wasn't even 2.30pm!  I joked they could get some supplies from Oriana.  I then went for a wander as I was obsessed with the other ship and saw the painter now had four helpers!  I thought it was three as I didn't notice the one in the pool at first.
We went back to the cabin for a while to check it out properly.  The bathroom showed its age, like the ship, but was a vast improvement on Oceana's cupboard.  The toilet, while similar to those on more modern vessels, was much louder when flushed and took longer. All in all we were pleased with our choice of cabin and paying that little more.  UK and US sockets (one of each) but the beds were narrow. Very comfortable though.  The balcony was a substantial size and we liked that too.  Our steward, Asis, came and introduced himself.  He showed us photos of his wife and children.  He was a very proud husband and father who was coming to the end of his eight month contract and looking forward to going home for four months.  He told us he had worked for P&O for ten years and he liked the clientele on Artemis.  He heads the list of my favourite stewards now for his whole demeanour and everything he did over that weekend.  He fully deserved the extra tip we gave him.
Muster was the usual 4.15pm and we would be in the International Bar & Lounge.  But before that we had time to do some more exploring and headed down to the Promenade Deck.  I really had to get used to the likes of Formosa Deck not being 5 as on Aurora and Oriana but 1 as Artemis is considerably smaller.  As you walked around, you could see various parts where she had influenced later vessels like Oriana.  Despite my initial reservations, I was slowly becoming quite fond of this little ship and began to understand why she was known as the new Canberra among her loyal passengers.  The crew were had encountered thus far were really friendly and there was a happy atmosphere aboard.  She's very dated, possibly more so than the QE2, but had that cosiness missing on much larger vessels.  Of course we had only been aboard a few hours and there was the rest of the weekend to come but I was definitely warming to her.
As we made our way around the Prom deck we came across the crew area on the bow.  There was a 'Crew Only' gate but it was wide open.  Despite a woman already out there on her mobile looking directly at us as we loitered, neither of us were stopped when Pam dived through the door and I followed.  Even as we were leaving a male crew member saw us and said nothing.  It was only when I went back to take a photo of Oriana from deck side of the doorway another male crew member came along and asked if I was crew.  When I said no he told me in no uncertain terms to piss off.  The gate and doorway remained open.  If they don't want passengers going out there or to crew only areas they should lock them so ONLY crew can enter.
The band were already playing on the quayside and it was an hour until sailaway.  I have never come across it so early before but it was nice to hear as we found the exit and went back to the cabin to fetch our lifejackets.
After lifeboat drill we returned to the Prom deck observation area.  Pam wanted to be higher for when we passed Braemar so I suggested we go up when we were turning as being so low we would have superb views of Oriana.  Captain Box came on and announced we would be leaving shortly and passing Oriana.  Hooray!  It wasn't that crowded where we were so made it easy to go port if needed.  Our first ropes were cast at 4.52pm so we'd be early too.
To the strains of Sailing, which was the final song the band played, we slowly moved towards Oriana.  It was a very Crossroads moment and I felt like Meg Mortimer, albeit only on Artemis rather than the QE2.  I also was only going to Zeebrugge and back rather than one way to New York.  Cunard ought to bring back the band!  The passengers applauded the band once they'd finished and they waved us off. As we passed Oriana we blasted to each other and one of her bridge crew waved a giant hand.  I have no idea what ours did.  It was the best P&O sailaway I've ever had, even though bar staff were invisible whereas on other ships they're all over you trying to get you to buy a drink.
Once we were safely past, Oriana threw her ropes.  Meanwhile in Eastern Docks, Sea Princess had done the same thing meaning that, although we'd left first, we would end up being last.  We'd expected to turn starboard, as they do on arrival, but we turned port.  We went to the other side and managed to find a place.  Pam seemed to have forgotten about going higher and was happy where she was, positioning herself in a corner.  Suited me as looking up it seemed more packed than where we were.  Oriana gave one blast as she left.

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© Patricia Dempsey 10th-12th May 2008
Not to be reproduced without permission